Tags: news

Vanishing Stories

Today marks the beginning of the new European Union VAT requirements. As an EU resident, I’m required to verify that any online vendors I work with are VAT compliant. Amazon is. Audible is. Smashwords… isn’t, and the only public announcement they’ve made on the topic is that they are not currently planning any changes to their web site.

Until that changes, my self-published fiction is no longer available for sale on Smashwords. Because Smashwords will not distribute to Kobo, iTunes or Barnes & Noble unless my work is available in their store, my work will soon be disappearing from those venues, too. Much as I’d like to, I do not have the time or capacity to work with each of those markets independently.

For reasons utterly unrelated to VAT, some of my lower-volume fiction will also be vanishing from Amazon. (It has to do with author rankings and weird algorithm stuff like that.)

The long and short of it: don’t be surprised if you can’t find a story that used to be there. You didn’t imagine it, and I’m not slowly vanishing due to weird Back-to-the-Future time travel effects. It’s just big business doing what big business does, with little authors worming their way through the cracks.

:) Happy New Year to those whose calendars just rolled over!


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New blog posts at SFWA

Most of you know that I occasionally blog for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It’s fun. I get to talk about crafting awesome stories. I get to help out other writers. And this month, I got to do it all twice. Links to the latest blog posts are available below.

Painting Characters into Corners

If you write stories, this has probably happened to you:

The words are flowing. The plot is exciting. Your characters, faced with overwhelming odds, find themselves in the midst of a difficult and absolutely enthralling situation. It’s the Big, Dramatic Moment of your story – and you have no idea what happens next. The bad guys are too strong, the social pressures are… (read more)

Building Strength out of Weakness

My oldest sister is very wise. Once, long ago, when I was struggling to master a difficult situation, she sent me a letter about strength and weakness. The gist of the content was this: Many strengths are the flip side of weakness. Many weaknesses are the flip side of a strength. Like two faces of a coin… (read more)

The chronically curious can find a list of all my SFWA blog posts here. There’s also a fairly hefty collection under the “Press Kit” menu item on my homepage.


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Carbide-Tipped Pens in Kirkus and Library Journal

Carbide-Tipped Pens, which releases from TOR today, has been doing very well in the online review venues. Kirkus called it “A science fiction anthology that strikes a balance between radical scientific ideas and grounded human emotion…Hard-core sci-fi fans will gobble this up, and readers newer to the genre should give it a chance, too.”

Library Journal describes the book as “A pleasing sampling of stories, all showing the range found even within a subgenre like hard SF.”

My contribution to this anthology is called “Recollection”. It explores what Bureau24 describes as “a plausible problem: what if medical science cures geriatric dementia, but can do nothing to recover the lost memories?” Bureau24 counts the story as one of the strongest in the anthology, which is interesting because it’s actually the second one I wrote for Eric and Ben. My first attempt (a character-driven military story which is still awaiting final revision) went too far afield of the anthology’s stated purpose. Eric kindly allowed me to send in a second submission. With only a few days before the deadline and no idea of where the story was going, I sat down and began writing the tale of a man who was permanently barred from recalling the people who love him.

It’s only the second time one of my own stories has made me cry.

From what I’ve heard, the other contributions to this anthology are emotionally powerful and technologically intriguing. It’s a very strong author lineup, I’m looking forward to reading their work over a cup of warm cocoa this holiday season.


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SHATTERED SHIELDS releases today!

BAEN’s military fantasy anthology, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, is live off the presses. Featuring stories by Elizabeth Moon, Larry Correia, Gray Rinehart, Annie Bellett and lots of other cool people, this is one of the most action-packed anthologies I’ve had the pleasure of being in.

My contribution, “Deadfall”, is set in a world where foreign raiders (literally) drop from the sky, and where practicing magic saps away your sanity. It features a bit of a twist ending and nice little action sequence shortly thereafter.


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I am giving away a Halloween Kitty.

No, really. See that cute little stuffed cat just above this text? I will send one anywhere in the continental US (or outside it, for that matter, as long as we can agree on a shipping fee).

Why? Because I love cuddly kittens, and because I want people to know about the (said with all humility) extremely awesome ebook Hexes and Haunts, which is on sale at a steep discount in honor of Halloween.

How to Play:
There are three ways to enter the contest.
(1) Retweet or share this post.
(2) Post your own link to the Hexes and Haunts ebook
(3) Grab a real, live person standing next to you and say, “Aw, wook at the cute widdle kitty!”

Don’t forget to let me know that you’re playing! Twitter and facebook will automatically message me if you tag my username in the post. For other social networks, you may have to get in touch via my contact form.

I will select a random winner shortly after the witching hour on October 31st.


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Variations of Villany: Available now on the SFWA Blog

I love digging into the nuts and bolts of writing. It’s fun to analyze why things work, which things don’t, and what writers can do to increase their effectiveness. And it’s twice as fun when I get to showcase my analysis on a high-traffic site like SFWA’s.

I therefore present with pleasure Variations of Villainy, a brief analysis of several basic character types.


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New Audible Book

When Marguerite Kenner narrated Movement for Escape Pod, she brought a depth and subtlety to the story that I had never imagined. Her reading of Hannah emphasized aspects of the character that I had not previously considered. It was like… meeting my characters all over again. I’ve often wondered whether Marguerite’s narration played a role in the story’s eventual nomination for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

I’m pleased to report that Marguerite is back, narrating a three-story sampler pack called The Breath of Heaven. The stories inside represent some of my older – but arguably superior – work. One was a WOTF finalist, the others were originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Jim Baen’s Universe. They’ve been available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for a while, but this is the first time the sampler pack has been offered in audio format.

And here’s the happy part: new Audible users can get the book for free as part of a 30-day trial membership.

[Addendum: For those who have already collected large quantities of my fiction (I adore you. Have I mentioned how much I adore you?) the sampler pack includes THE BREATH OF HEAVEN, KNOWING NEITHER KIN NOR FOE, and IN THE HALLS OF THE SKY-PALACE.]


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Reviews and Pre-orders

Kathy at Shelf Full of Books has kindly posted a review of The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny.

“This was an excellent book of short stories. Written over a wide variety of topics the stories bring encouragement, enlightenment, and evoke a wide range of emotions. The stories are thought-provoking and can be taken on several different levels from superficial to something deeper.”

Also, pre-orders are open for:

Shattered Shields (BAEN) and
Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction.

Both anthologies have a strong showing of contributing authors, and both sets of editors were delightful to work with. If I had to guess, I’d say Shattered Shields will sell more copies and Carbide Tipped Pens will get more award nominations. But hey: it’s not like I haven’t been wrong before…


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On Happily-Ever-Afters

It’s strange how certain conversations can stick with you. I was chatting in an online forum years ago, among good friends, when the topic turned to family relationships. A number of forum members shared difficult and distressing experiences from their personal lives. Then someone asked, a little wistfully, “Is there even such a thing as a normal family anymore? Like, you know, a family where everybody is still talking to each other?”

I had one of those rabbit-in-the-headlight moments. “Yes!” I thought. “Mine!” We’re not perfect, not by any means, but we send each other gifts at Christmas and hold family reunions and take an interest in each others’ lives. Those of us who are married are still on our first marriages, and I’ve chatted amicably with all of my siblings during the past year.

But in the context of the conversation, it didn’t feel right to say that. How could I parade my happiness in front of people who were dealing with the horrifying situations we had just been discussing? It didn’t seem respectful. It didn’t seem appropriate. And so I let the moment pass.

And I find, years later, that I am still saddened by the necessity of doing so.

Because there are happy families in this world. Marriages that actually work. Couples who meet and fall in love and really do find a happily-ever-after together. It is possible. Difficult, yes, especially for those who’ve been handed a crapload of emotional baggage. But possible.

And I think, sometimes, that this possibility gets lost in the massive, ugly realities of day-to-day living. And that those most in need of a glimpse of hope are perhaps the very people who seldom get it – because when your own family life sucks, those who have it better tend to make themselves invisible out of a sense of respect for the difficulties you’re going through.

It’s easy to fall prey to the notion that everyone who appears happy is secretly hiding some ugly skeleton of domestic abuse. That every starry-eyed pair of newlyweds is destined for a rude awakening after their honeymoon. That lasting contentment is a silly children’s story, often envisioned but impossible to experience.

But you see, that’s a notion every bit as unrealistic as the belief that life will unfold perfectly just because you’re in love. Both realities are true – the fairy-tale marriage that crumbles to ashes and the romance which blossoms into 60 years of happiness – they both exist. They are both real. And so, at the same time that conscientious authors are understandably working to prevent young girls from rushing headlong into relationships they’ve not yet taken time to think about, I hope we also don’t erase the idea of a happily-ever-after entirely.

“But wait!” I hear concerned readers saying. “Statistically, the likelihood of an unhappy relationship is much higher than the likelihood of happiness. Why dangle an unrealistic dream in front of children who are sure to be disappointed?”

Well, hm. The likelihood of becoming a NYT Bestseller is, quite frankly, very slim. Do we tell aspiring authors it’s just a pipe dream? Do we urge them to set their sights on something more realistic, like selling a couple of short stories to a semi-pro magazine? Or do we encourage them to buckle down, use whatever resources fate and a cruel world have allotted them, and learn the skills that will give them the best possible chance of reaching that statistically unlikely yet infinitely desirable goalpost?

Happiness exists. It is real. It is possible.

It is worth striving for.


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